Design is complete on the largest and most comprehensive 9.SQUARE effort to date. The historic rehabilitation of the former Conley Camera Factory and Maass & McAndrew Company building in downtown Rochester will be the first project in all of Olmsted County to receive the federal and state Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit.
Though it may not look like it from the exterior, this building is definitely worthy of historical preservation. Its significance is derived from the industry uses from 1900-1929 that have local and regional heritage preservation importance. That is not to say that there aren't any architecturally significant features (Rochester's only remaining original prism glass transom windows, heavy timber superstructure, original wood double-hung and storm windows, and stepped gable facade to name a few). The long and storied history of this building has been overshadowed by flashier and brighter examples of historic relevance in our community. But its prominence is about to return through bold intervention.
Overall, this project is about placemaking. So much of the Destination Medical Center Development Plan emphasizes placemaking and its foundational principles. However, much of what is depicted in that plan is large scale redevelopment of entire blocks of downtown. These visions of redevelopment--in a vacuum--do have significant power to create a "sense of place" but over the long term, there needs to be something memorable. Something lasting.
This project takes the long view of placemaking and builds upon a commercial landmark in downtown Rochester and attempts to imbue it with a progressive and innovative program that connects entrepreneurial energy to the furthest reaches of the globe. Located only a block from what could become Discovery Square, the location is at the convergence of Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota Rochester, and a housing powder keg set to explode.
The interior provides essential support to foster entrepreneurial growth in emerging companies. There is access to services, high-speed internet, and conference space, as well as fuel (read: food) for the fast-paced start-up life. The tall ceilings, abundant natural light, and open offices are a juxtaposition of 20th century architecture and 21st century innovation. And while it is a prevalent model around the United States, it will be one of a kind in Rochester.
The building will boast state-of-the-art energy efficient mechanical systems, an improved thermal envelope, new insulated windows, ultra-efficient lighting with daylight controls, low-flow water fixtures, bicycle storage and showers, and many other sustainable features. Indeed the greenest building is the one already built, and this building will leverage that "green" baseline to a much larger extent.
Finally, the hallmark of any urban building is its activity. The front entry--beyond the large plate glass windows--puts on display the vibrancy of a fast casual bistro for either a quick conversation over lunch or an impromptu meeting with colleagues. Tenants of the building will have 24-hour access and we imagine that at any given time of night you may see a light on within. So a quick coffee and pastry in this comfortable common lounge may be the perfect morning respite for a weary worker.
Whatever the final outcome becomes in the hearts and minds of Rochester residents, this is a serious investment in our built fabric downtown. Removal of hazardous materials, providing an elevator and full wheelchair accessibility, upgrading emergency egress and life safety requirements, installing fire protection and sprinkler systems, and complying with the latest model codes will ensure that this building has the staying power to last for future generations to enjoy as well.
Stay tuned for more to come on following the construction progress!!